Playing and jumping often give me the inspiration to solve some of our biggest business challenges — something they didn’t teach me at Harvard Business School.
Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, executive, and innovation consultant. He is the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, creating innovative products, services, and platforms for self-expression and discovery.
Prior to Glimpulse, Paresh served as co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Devas, a next-generation wireless and satellite system.
Paresh received his MBA from Harvard Business School. While a student, Paresh founded Tribeca Designs, a consumer electronics design and accessories company, which he sold after graduation. He is an adjunct professor and guest lecturer in strategy and entrepreneurship for several MBA programs and is married with four children.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a company called Glimpulse. We’re aiming to change the way people are able to express themselves by imagining and building new tools that allow people to share their true selves. We believe expression is more than a status update.
Where did the idea for Glimpulse come from?
I came to the realization that each moment in time shapes all future moments — you never know what the alternative timeline would have looked like. It proved to me how important it is to be mindful and express yourself authentically in the moment; all kinds of magic happen then.
I realized there were many facets of myself I’d hidden from different audiences (or even myself), and these have kept me from realizing my greater potential, both as an executive and as a person. I asked, “Why do I compartmentalize these facets of who I am, and more importantly, am I doing this consciously?” The engineer, the MBA, the business strategist, the entrepreneur, the father, the yogi, the musician, the artist — these are all essential parts of who I am. I realized many people do the same for fear they would be rejected or unfairly judged by others, or because they fear it would not be appropriate.
So I asked myself, “Why not?” Why not integrate the various parts of myself and be proud, with these unique talents that reach across domains? I decided to “integrate” them and let my various colors shine. It was profoundly powerful to see how it deepened my relationships, confidence, and ability to make big things happen.
What does your typical day look like?
After 20 years of experimentation in the business world, what I’ve found works for me is a three-phase model:
1) First and foremost, get into my personal zone and get comfortable there.
2) Next, connect with real people in the real world.
3) Then and only then, connect to the Internet and use media and technology tools to aid in getting things done.
When I’m not traveling, I wake up, smile before I get out of bed (if I forget, get back in bed and do it again!), meditate for 30 to 60 minutes, walk my kids to school, and begin the day with a dose of reality: walking, air, trees, kids, rain, birds, whatever’s happening that morning. Then, I have a meeting with my COO or senior exec team to connect, discuss the priorities for the day, and do longer-term planning. I might get a coffee or tea at a beach stand and meet some neighbors. Then — and only then — do I check emails and look at my calendar for meetings and calls. Given that I work until the wee hours of the morning at times, I really try to make time to take breaks and work out every day, as these give me more energy, productivity, and centeredness. In the evening, I’ll help with dinner, get the kids to bed, and then work a bit more until bedtime, with an occasional viewing of a TED Talk to discuss with my wife. (You may think it’s not romantic, but ideas c an be very powerful!)
How do you bring ideas to life?
I open my mind and surround myself with amazing people. I seek lateral stimulus in totally unrelated areas to find solutions (it’s often the opposite of where you think the solution lies that true inspiration arises), lots of discussions with the best minds in their fields, and an A-team of execs to take our ideas and systematically and rigorously ensure we bring them to reality. I can’t stress the value of silence and quieting the mind — it’s counter to how I worked the past 20 years — because racing around and checking off boxes on a to-do list won’t create greater value and results.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m excited about the attention and receptivity finally being placed on seriously studying topics like happiness, flourishing, joy, etc. Historically, these topics have been in the realm of the touchy-feely, and it’s great to see serious work and publications tackle these important topics with the same rigor, KPIs, and importance as, say, manufacturing theory or shareholder value analysis. There has been a massive proliferation of channels for self-expression: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…I believe it’s just the beginning, and once people see the correlation between authentic self-expression and happiness, it will take off even more.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I sold timeshare vacations door-to-door in college to make money. I was given leads by the call center, and then I had to drive all over town to people’s houses to explain why they should visit our vacation place at the beach. It was horrible to sell something I didn’t believe in. I learned to never do anything just for money! Integrity is essential. (Oh, and make sure you have the best tools to do your job — not to date myself, but in that case, I realized I needed to invest in a very detailed Rand McNally atlas!)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “Start with Why.” It’s the most important thing to remember; if you have a mission, a purpose, a true north that aligns with your passion and skills, it sets a direction for everything you do. Customers resonate with the why more than what you’re selling, and it makes decisions a lot easier, as the why drives many decision-making criteria.
Another thing I do over and over again is ask, “Why not?” Pablo Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create a service/app that easily records your phone interactions with customer service reps and lets you say, “In order to ensure quality service, I am recording this conversation and would be happy to send you the .wav file when we’re done.” It would let you easily play back recordings so you don’t have to repeat yourself a million times, forward the .wav file to a supervisor to prove that “Suzie told me on July 5 that I would get a credit on my phone bill,” and rate your interaction with the reps and sell the data back to the customer service execs. I guarantee the runaround we get would go way down, and service and responsiveness would go up!
Tell us a secret.
When I take a break, I often jump on the trampoline with my kids. Playing and jumping often give me the inspiration to solve some of our biggest business challenges — something they didn’t teach me at Harvard Business School. I call it “jumpstorming.”
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
• Shazam: It’s magic! You get the name of the song that, before, would bug you for three days. That would have been spy technology just a short time ago, and now everyone can have it — incredible.
• Evernote: Finally, something that works to capture, access, and share my ideas and thoughts, wherever I am.
• Google Image Search: How amazing is it that you can pull up millions of photos for inspiration, presentations, research, etc.? Kings would have given their kingdoms for any of these tools that we get for nearly nothing. What a world we live in!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. His life’s work with Andrew Carnegie was on researching what made high-impact people great (people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc.). The bottom line, from hundreds of interviews he conducted, is what’s known as “The Law of Attraction.” When I teach in MBA programs, I tell all of my students that they need to understand this law since traditional programs don’t teach this and, in my opinion, it’s far more important than finance or other functional disciplines to create great businesses (and even create greatness in your life).
What’s on your playlist?
My playlist contains Rush, Boston, Maroon 5, and Cat Stevens.
If you weren’t working on Glimpulse, what would you be doing?
I’d be starting another company focused on a big opportunity to create big value by solving a big problem that makes a big difference in people’s lives. Why play small?
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1) Richard Branson: He is my business idol. I totally agree with Sir Richard; conventional business thinking will drive you into being ordinary at best, and most likely, you will end up in the cheap seats on the competitive field, while other companies who question, “Why should we do things the conventional way?” end up in the box seats.
2) The Dalai Lama: How cool is it that the Dalai Lama can reach everyone in the world with his message of peace and love — and you don’t need a private audience in Tibet to hear him?
3) Rohit Bhargava: He’s a marketing genius and the bestselling author of “Likeonomics.” He understands the impact of human relationships on product development, marketing, branding, and social media. Brilliant!
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
One of my daughters showed me a funny YouTube video called “After Ever After,” showing what happens to all the Disney princesses “after.” It’s funny.
Who is your hero?
I have so many. Anyone who put himself on the line for his belief in the possibility of a better society is a hero of mine: MLK, John Lennon, Gandhi, my dad, etc. One that comes to mind right now is Philippe Petit, the man in the documentary “Man on a Wire” who, in 1974, did a high-wire walk between the Twin Towers and showed everyone that nothing is impossible. It made me ask myself, “What high wire am I willing to walk?”
Tell me about a time you failed. What did you learn?
During the dot.com days, I was so excited to “get in on the action” that I started a company called StarStock.com, which was a fantasy game that allowed users to buy and sell virtual shares in celebrities, musicians, politicians, sports stars, etc. If the person was more popular or did well in his industry, people would buy the stock, and the price went up based on an algorithm I wrote. If he did something stupid, like jump on Oprah’s couch, people would dump the stock. You could win prizes for high “portfolio value.” What I learned was to 1) have a solid revenue and business model at the outset, rather than a plan to “figure it out someday” (which is not a plan at all) and 2) beware of jumping on bandwagons and following the crowds. I heard a quote once that said, “The one who follows the crowd will go no further than the crowd.” This is absolutely true, and in my case, we crashed and burned just like the rest of the crowd!
What would you have done differently in your personal life?
I would have stopped watching the news much earlier. I feel liberated, more creative, more fearless, and clearer since I turned off the constant violence, fear, humiliation, and anger. I keep up with the important stuff that impacts my life in other ways. In fact, I did some analysis once and concluded that 95 percent of the news doesn’t affect me (unless I let it), and of the 5 percent that does, there’s little I can do about it, anyway. I’d rather focus on building a successful business that has a positive impact on people in that 5 percent.